News Wrap


Dues of Rs 40,000 crore have to be extracted from entities like Reliance Communications (R-Com) that have borrowed themselves into a bankruptcy resolution process, and sought protection from a Supreme Court bench, from the claims on that account. Reliance JIO on 17 August 2020, intervened in the legal battle over the payment of spectrum dues of over Rs 1.47 lac crore that fifteen entities, including its biggest rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, owe the government. On 14 August 2020, the apex Court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah wondered whether Reliance JIO, which had acquired R-Com’s assets, under a spectrum—sharing arrangement in 2016, could be directed to pay the Rs 25,000 crore that the insolvent telecom player owes the department of telecom (DOT). JIO is owned by Mokesh Ambani, while R-Com belonged to his bother Anil Ambani. There were 141 bidders for R-Com assets in the insolvency proceedings, including Bharti Airtel. Eventually, the creditor picked UV Asset Reconstructing Company Limited, a specialist firm set up in 2007, that seeks to turnaround badly stressed companies. The state Bank of India heads R-Com’s committee of creditors, in the resolution process, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

There is mass displacement in Rakhine, Myanmar’s southwestern province, where Asian giants China and India, are building infrastructural projects. The Myanmar military considers the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as terrorist organisations. A China—Myanmar oil and Natural gas pipeline was constructed in 2013, and the 1420 Kilometers—long crude oil pipeline became operational in 2017. Starting from Rakhine’s seashore facing Bay of Bengal, the project has strategic significance, as the pipeline would enable China’s oil and gas imports to reduce their burden on the Malacca straits, a narrow channel that connects the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. In January 2020, the Chinese president on a visit to Myanmar, announced a bilateral agreement for the development of a special economic zone and a deep-water port at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine state. India has heavily invested in Rakhine, as it is building the Kaladan project. The multi-modal transit transport project will lessen the distance between Calcutta and Sitwe, the capital of Rakhine, and provide another link to India’s North east, in addition to the Siliguri corridor.

Chinese weaponry is circulating among various insurgent ethnic armed groups in Myanmar. China is also the only qualitative arms—supply life line for the Myanmar military—the Tatmadow. During the Rohingya crisis in 2017, China had blocked attempts at the United Nations security council to move a resolution against Myanmar. As per the Ralehine Ethnic Congress, a local non-profit outfit, more than 200,000 Rakhine Buddhists have displaced in the province, since fighting resumed in the last quarter of 2018, between Tatmadow, whose personnel mostly come from the Burman Buddhist majority, and the Arakan Army (AA). The AA cadre are Buddhist but are ethnically distinct from Burman Buddhists. The AA has had close relations with the Kachin. Independence Army, an ethnic group with a presence in the Kachin state bordering China The AA fighters are being trained by KIA commanders  Apart from several attacks on the Tatmadaw, particularly mine explosions to blow up military convoys, the AA has also seletectively targeted infrastructural projects. In November 2019, it abducted five Indian workers working on the Kaladan project. China’s Yunnan province officials are empowered to directly engage with Myanmar and its constituent states on a variety of issues. The economic trade with Myanmar is reportedly around a quarter of Yunnan’s trade. With Myanmar’s elections scheduled in November 2020, a semi-democrasy kind of polity is expected to continue, as the military is reluctant to endorse a fully civilian government, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi’a National League for Democracy.

Beginning Of Corona Pandemic
Even after six days, after top Chinese officials secretly determined they were likely facing a pandemic from a new corona virus, the city of Wuhan at the epicentre of the disease, hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people. Millions began travelling through for Lunar New Year celebrations. China’s president warned the public on the seventh day, 20 Jan 2020. But by that time, more than 3000 people had been infected, during almost a week of public silence. The delay from 14 January 2020 to 20 January 2020 was the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels, was compounded by government officials around the world dragging their feet for weeks, and even months in addressing the virus. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic, set the stage for a pandemic that has infected ova two million people, and taken more than 300,000 lives. Wuhan’s medical system had collapsed. Even though lwndreds of patients were appearing in hospitals, not just in Wuhan, but across China, during Jan 2020, the Centre for Disease control did not register any cases from local officials in Wuhan and other districts in China. The punishment of eight doctors for rumour mongering, broadcast on China’s National Television, sent a chill through Wuhan’s city hospitals. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied suppressing information, saying it immediately reported the outbreak to the World Health Organisation. The epidemic situation is still severe, the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003.

Vol. 53, No. 12, sep 20 - 26, 2020